Snorkeling is one of those activities that is literally fun for the whole family. You can start it as a fun hobby in your young single years, but once you have a family, it is something adventurous and fun that you can use to spend time as a family and vastly expand the world of your little ones.
However, you not only need to keep special considerations in mind when snorkeling with children, but before that, you need to realize that buying snorkel equipment for children is not the same as buying it for adults.
The number one reason is that kids are much smaller, and still growing, so what fits perfectly one year might not fit the next. Thankfully, because children outgrow their snorkel gear so frequently, it often causes kid’s snorkel sets to be much cheaper than your high-end adult models.
What Age Should Kids Start Snorkeling?
When considering taking your kids out snorkeling for the first time, this is a pretty common question. It is also an important question because it affects what size gear to get and any extras you may need to assure their safety and confidence in the water.
So what is the right age for kids to start snorkeling? Well, there is no good answer. On seaside towns, you’ll see a bunch of young local kids out on the water, and this is because going down to the beach for a swim is part of their everyday life. The key to choosing an age for a child to start snorkeling is gauging how comfortable they are in the water. If you don’t live by the coast, going to the local pool is a good way to get a quick assessment as well as training.
They don’t need to be awesome at staying afloat in deep water, kick boards and vest can help deal with that, but they do need to be pretty confident and have some solid swim training under their belt. Aside from swimming, you also need to make sure they are comfortable with the equipment. Putting on a snorkel mask and breathing through a tube for the first time can be jarring. It might require a bit of practice before taking on the real deal.
Just keep in mind that the younger the child, the more you will need to look out for them. So if you start young, during the first few times, you may not get much snorkeling done.
Choosing a Kid’s Snorkeling Mask and Tube
The mask is easily the most important part of any snorkel set. Whether you are an adult or a kid, having a leaky mask is a quick way to cut a snorkel trip short. Unfortunately, if you thought sizing a mask for adults is tough, doing it for a kid is worse. Since they are always growing, it can be hard to get the size down, but most kids sets will come with a pretty standard size chart.
Before actually going snorkeling, be sure to give the mask a test first. It can be done in a few simple steps.
- Place the Mask to the Child’s Face – Don’t put the straps on, just hold it to their face so the skirt presses snugly.
- Have the Child Inhale – Inhaling through the nose on a properly fitting mask will create a seal. If it fits decently, it will be able to stay on their face without straps or you holding it on.
- Exhale – The mask should come loose.
You can also take a trip to the pool to have them test it out in action. Doing so in the tub is not quite as effective as you would think.
As for the tube, you don’t need to get anything fancy. Just make sure the tube is light and your child will be able to easily purge it if water gets in. Since they probably won’t do much diving, an expensive dry tube probably isn’t needed.
One tip for choosing a good tube for your child’s first snorkel is to make sure the mouth piece actually fits. The rubber knobs on the mouthpiece are there to help keep water out, so if you child can’t get their mouth around that, the tube is too big. However, typically if you buy your gear in a kid’s snorkel set, then the tube is specifically made for a child’s mouth.
Choosing a Kid’s Snorkeling Fins
When buying snorkeling fins for kids, the most important thing is that they have adjustable straps. You aren’t buying your kid shoes every year just because they wear out, right? While they might outgrow their mask pretty quickly, if you choose adjustable snorkel fins, then you might be able to get a few more years out of them as they grow.
Aside from that, like when choosing a set of snorkel fins for adults, you want the fins to neither be too loose so as to cause blisters nor too tight so that they cut off circulation. It might be a good idea to invest in a pair of neoprene snorkel socks just in case, though. No one likes blisters.
A child’s snorkel fins should also be plenty flexible. Rigid fins can make it more difficult to swim for beginners and a little more exhausting.
Vest or No Vest?
Finally, we get to accessories that don’t typically come with a kid’s snorkeling set. These accessories, namely vests or kickboards, aren’t necessary, but they do help.
Kickboards are a great choice for the child that isn’t very good at swimming or tires easily (and gets really whiny about it). It gives the kid something to float on, grab onto, and rest in the water with. It ultimately gives you a little more peace of mind and comes in handy if the waves come in and a snorkeling trip turns into just swimming.
More popular are vests, something that even adult snorkelers use just in case. They not only serve to give you a way to just relax and float in the water, but the bright colors help increase visibility, and every parent knows how important it is to be able to spot their kid in any situation. Since your child doesn’t need to be diving under to check out the sights, snorkeling vests are actually a pretty decent investment. If you are considering a snorkel tour, then you will find that they actually become mandatory for safety reasons as well.